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Fiona Snyckers

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Private Secret Diary of a Dysfunctional Writer (not for public viewing)

[With apologies to Finuala Dowling whom I admire very much and wish I could be more like. One of my greatest regrets about not living in Cape Town is that I cannot attend her writing workshops]


Jerk roughly into wakefulness thanks to strident tones of alarm clock. Experience many bitter regrets about 1am tweeting session and two glasses of wine. Resolve sternly to go to bed earlier from now on. Starting tonight. Definitely.


Jerk roughly into wakefulness again thanks to strident tones of second alarm clock. Stagger towards shower. Lurch around house like drunk person, chivvying children into school clothes and setting out breakfast.


Wave limp farewell to husband and children. Return to house and drink in wonderful, blissful, radiant sound of silence. Feel surge of energy and decide to Go For a Run. Running is very good for WRITERS. It energises the brain and wakes up the cells. This is well known. While assembling running clothes and takkies, quickly pick up BlackBerry to check Twitter.


Put down BlackBerry and acknowledge regretfully that it is now far too late to go for a run. The WRITING must come first. Realise that self is first and foremost a WRITER and must not do anything to compromise the WRITING process. Fitness will have to take second place.


Make own breakfast:

Oatso Easy (chocolate flavour)
Woolies banana muffin
Mug of tea large enough to house medium-sized goldfish.

Return to bed, dislodging three or four cats from occupation of “warm spot”. Realise importance of inspiration to creative process. Decide to spend five minutes reading chick-lit book in order to “switch gears” between current-affairs-oriented Twitter and fiction writing.


Put down chick-lit book. Realise that keeping up one’s social media profile is a vital part of being a WRITER in these jaded, modern, electronic times. Update Facebook status and check Twitter again. Reply to comments on Facebook status and start Twitter fight with prominent political columnist.


Spend five minutes berating self bitterly for wasting half the morning. Does self not realise that only two scant hours remain before self needs to fetch Junior Daughter? Realise that do not have right to call self WRITER at all. Plug in laptop and switch it on with firm, determined motions. Reach for chick-lit book for more inspiration … withdraw hand quickly. Reach for BlackBerry, which flashes enticingly … withdraw hand quickly.

Read over yesterday’s writing, peeping between fingertips and wincing at every third sentence. Resist urge to delete it all. Stare into space. Try to remember name of heroine’s best friend’s love interest. Scroll back through manuscript to look it up. Wonder what possessed self to create him as character at all. Stare at screen until head swivels on shoulders, Excorcist-style. Pray for words to come. Force self to start typing, even though no words have come.


Glance at watch. Jesus Christ on a Skateboard! Another twenty minutes have passed and self has written only one sentence. Force self to write another sentence. And another. And another.


Realise that word count (1226) is far, far below daily target of 2000 and resolve to finish tonight. Rush around like madwoman applying make up and putting on “going out in public” clothes.


Fetch Junior Daughter from school.


Fetch Son from school.


Fetch Senior Daughter from school.


Throw sandwiches, Woolies samoosas, and glasses of milk at passing children.


Take Son to cricket.


Take Senior Daughter to ballet.


Fetch Son from cricket.


Fetch Senior Daughter from ballet.


Supervise three sets of homework.


Make school lunches and supervise packing of three schoolbags.


Contemplate making nourishing meal for family, consisting of organic, grain-fed lamb, oven-roasted spring vegetables drizzled with olive oil and gratinated coriander, lightly crisped roast potatoes and fruits in season.


Bung Woolies “family” casserole in oven and rip open packet of ready-washed salad with teeth.


Bow head in shame as children rebuke self for ALWAYS serving such DISGUSTING meals, yuck, yuck, YUCK, why Mom why?! Console self with thought that organic lamb would’ve met with same reaction.


Physically wrestle bathed, fed and pyjamaed children into bed.


Physically wrestle bathed, fed and pyjamaed children into bed again. Realise voice is getting slightly hoarse from shouting. Wander through house picking up clothes, toys and general detritus of day.


Consume remains of casserole and salad with husband. Exchange desultory grunts with husband, and argue half-heartedly over who had most tiring day. Decide not to pour self glass of wine as WRITING requires clear head, and consuming wine is not conducive to clear head.


Pour self glass of wine. Retire to bed with laptop on knees and cats draped around room at random intervals. Switch on laptop. Instantly fall heavily asleep with head at acute angle, and drool emerging attractively from side of mouth.


Wake up with jump as cats perform steeple-chase across bed. Realise regretfully that it is too late to WRITE anymore tonight. Change into pyjamas, take off make-up, evict cats from bedroom. Realise self is now wide awake. Pour second glass of wine to induce drowsiness. Check Twitter.


Put down BlackBerry after cheery two hours of witty back-and-forth on Twitter. Note time with sinking sense of dismay. Resolve to do better tomorrow. Put out light. Fall into heavy slumber.

Next morning

Rinse and repeat.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    February 4th, 2011 @09:11 #

    I know the feeling. Get up at 7-work till 5-attend function for work-come home at 9 and fall onto couch exhausted-make dinner-sleep.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    February 4th, 2011 @10:06 #

    I love this. So very much. I am larfing and larfing.

    "Exchange desultory grunts with husband, and argue half-heartedly over who had most tiring day." Ouch, ouch, ouch. (Note to self: Buy flowers and say "thanks" to DW. Note to self: try to earn some money to buy flowers.)

    But tell us, at 7:08 am, what exactly do you drink in the wonderful, blissful, radiant sound of silence? And can I have some?

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    February 4th, 2011 @11:41 #

    Hahaha, Louis! The silence is narcotic enough. It's the most wonderful sound in the world to parents of small children.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    February 4th, 2011 @12:33 #

    It was the nourishing meal that did me in -- "gratinated coriander" -- BWAHAHAHA! At least you and Louis can console yourselves that Parenting is Important Work. You do NOT want to know what a similar day in Life of Writing Spinster With Cats looks like, not least because you might die of jealousy. At least you have proved that I dare not get (a) a Crackberry or (b) a Twitter account. Reading all the 2nd-hand chick lit on the shelves of Food Barn while drinking bottomless coffee is quite bad enough.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    February 4th, 2011 @13:17 #

    This is hilarious. But for all your mucking about, you're still getting 2000 words a day done? Not very dysfunctional, I'm afraid. You're gonna have to try harder. More chick lit! More Tweeting! More lying in a hammock in the garden scoffing cupcakes and champagne and possibly woozy prescription meds

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    February 5th, 2011 @19:47 #

    I'm with Lauren. That 2000 words a day has me drooling unattractively. On a good day I get about 250 new ones.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    February 6th, 2011 @16:28 #

    Kehkehkeh, "Jesus on a skateboard".


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